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Good-Bye This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , Burnsville, MN
“Come now,” her text read. That was all she needed to say. Within seconds, I was in my mom's car. As I drove, I concentrated on keeping my eyes dry, trying not to think about what I was about to do. My muscles were tense, my teeth were clenched, and the closer I got to her house, the faster the blood pumped through my body. Confusion and terror took over my thoughts, making my attention to the road unreliable. I had never had to use so much willpower to focus on my driving. Once her house finally appeared, I ripped the keys from the ignition. As I ran to her front door, I wondered if I should be sprinting toward this daunting event, but my trembling hands were already turning the doorknob.

“He's dying,” she told me a couple of weeks before. I don't remember hearing anything after that. Maybe it was because her sobs made her words inaudible, or maybe I had stopped listening, but either way, I had not believed her. Being best friends with a straightforward girl whose father was battling cancer gave me many speechless moments. This was one of them. I held the phone to my ear as I listened to her cry painfully. Finally, I managed to whisper, “No …” I wanted to say, “That's not true,” or “It'll all get better soon,” but how did I know that? Each time I promised her that he would get better, my words were contradicted by his doctors. The hospital visits were ending with more depressing news, but I still had not believed her. I wasn't willing to accept that things like this happened to people I knew.

Now here I was, standing in her laundry room. She hugged me and whispered, “Be strong.” Then she pointed to her parents' bedroom. Entering the room, my emotions escaped from me as if I had taken too big a breath and let it loose. Insuppressible sobs shook my body as I reached for his hand. But this wasn't the man I knew – the coach who taught me to play soccer in elementary school, the silly guy who sang along to “Crazy Frog” during our middle school obsession, or even the man who became my second father during a trip to Australia just six months earlier.

I was holding the hand of cancer. Pimples peppered his yellowed face, and his skin was loose from the weight he had lost. How do you say good-bye to someone who knows he's dying?

I didn't want my last moments with him to be heavy-hearted. Fighting my irregular breathing, I began to list all the happy times we had shared. I thanked him for the vacations I went on, and for the compassionate, strong, beautiful daughter he had raised. When I finished, I said, “I will miss you. I love you.” I was no longer shaking as I gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

That day shaped the way I live. I realized that no one is invincible. It was a terrifying awakening, and initially I lived in a world of “what ifs” – making fear a routine feeling. In time, I came to a different conclusion: I need to appreciate life; I cannot allow myself to take it for granted, because I don't know when my life and the lives around me will come to an end. My continued decision to be chemical-free comes from my realization that I am lucky to have a body that sustains me. I have learned to forgive easily. We've all heard the phrase, “Our time is precious; we shouldn't waste it,” but it wasn't until I held death's hand that I learned to live that way.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Sabrina D. said...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm
This was a very good essay. You had very strong structure, and choice of words.
 
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